Ladies and gentlemen, after a long wait I present the spin off sequel to the Last Dance, featuring the next generation of the characters you grew to love (and hate). Reading the first book is not necessary to understand the plot of this book. Hope you all enjoy!
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Chapter 1 - The Invitation
“The ballroom glittered like a stone of amber lit from within, and I was the flame that carried it’s light. It was to a sea of upturned faces held in rapture that I made my descent. Not a breath stirred the room as I glided down the grand staircase on that night of the High Ball. They could see I was destined for greatness, destined for the Prince, but still he picked her.”
The Lady Petunia was not a woman lightly scorned. Miserly in forgiveness, quick in contempt, she carried herself as the Queen she ought to have been, a fact she reminded me of as often as she breathed.
“It should have been me.”
“Of course mother.”
I sighed heavily and tapped my fan against the polished oak wood armrest. This was nothing I hadn't heard before.
“I almost had him, he was right there in the palm of my hand when that sorry excuse for a ‘Lady’ tricked him into loving her. Ridiculous, as if men know what love is, and now this indignancy.”
She reached a hand across the desk to snatch up the cream colored envelope embossed with the Royal seal, pulling out the contents for the fourth time.
“Read it Talia, I can’t bear to look at it.” She seethed, shoving the paper into my reluctant hands.
Of course mother, you’ve only read it three times, what’s one more? I thought with a roll of the eyes.
I cleared my throat and began, ‘Her Royal Highness Queen Celia—‘
“Queen! As if she deserves such a title, I deserve that title!”
‘—would like to extend an invitation for Lady Talia of Daera to join the ranks of the Queen’s Shield Academy—“
“Academy!” She snatched the sheet from my hands.
“As if it’s anything more that a handful of ill-bred girls being taught to run around dressed as men.” She thundered.
Not that I disagreed, what were we, savages to be running around with swords in the air, as likely to chop off our own hands as anything else? The pity was we’d received the same invitation three years running since I turned fifteen, each resulting in a similar fit of outrage.
She paced across the room, brandishing the offending leaf of parchment between white knuckled fingers.
“The nerve, the nerve of that despicable throne-stealing wench to think I would—to send this, this—” She sputtered to a stop, hissing in indignation.
The anger of Lady Petunia was a frightful thing to behold. Whatever beauty she’d had in her youth had long been twisted into hard lines and a constant frown from an outrage suffered at the hands of our ‘beloved’ King Johnathan. Beloved by whom I’d yet to find out.
“How dare she! How dare she insult me with this wretched invitation.”
“Surely it was sent to everyone high born woman in the Kingdom mother, not as a singular slight to you.”
She whirled around in swish of skirts seething with years of bitterness, baring her teeth like an animal poised to attack. I grimaced and wished, not for the first time, that I could swallow the words back down and master the art of knowing when to keep silent.
“Is she such a fool to think I would send you to that corrupted court? She does it to taunt me! To give you a taste of the life you could have had, the life so undeservingly lived by her arrogant boy—“
She broke off with a gasp and turned to me with an expression that could only be described as gleeful, an expression I hadn’t seen the like of in all my seventeen years.
“Mother, are you well?” I asked hesitantly, for surely such a drastic change could only be attributed to madness, a quality my mother no doubt had an infinite supply of.